The Awakening By Kate Chopin

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The Awakening written by Kate Chopin in 1899 was a feminist fiction novel ahead of its time. When the book was first published, it was met with condemnation and scorn from the public. They did not approve of the controversial topic of a woman not being dependent or subservient to her husband and family. Ironically, The Awakening became very popular in the 1950s, well after Chopin had died, and was praised for its “[beautiful] writing and its modern sensibility” (“Kate Chopin”). The novel demonstrates that people are pressured to conform to the binary gender roles of society in the 19th century. The Awakening centers around Edna Pontellier, a married woman in the 1890s in Grand Isle, and later, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The book starts out with Edna being satisfied in her role as Leonce Pontellier’s wife and as a mother to her two children. As the story goes on, she becomes more upset and unsatisfied with her life. While vacationing at Grand Isle, Edna makes friends with Adele Ratignolle and Madame Reisz and falls in love with Robert Lebrun. Adele is the embodiment of a motherwoman, a role that society expects women to conform to unquestionably. In short, she is the opposite of Edna; she idolizes her children and worships her husband. Madame Reisz is an independent musician that speaks her mind and she is the one that Edna talks to about her feelings for Robert when he was in Mexico. By falling in love with Robert, Edna begins an awakening of her sexuality and of becoming her own person. Eventually, she realizes the futility of a romantic relationship ever starting between her and Robert when he left her again to go back to Mexico. In the end, with her newlyfound independence and rejection of society’s expectations of... ... middle of paper ... ... of a motherwoman. She “[idolizes her] children and [worships her husband]” (Chopin 16). Edna Pontellier is fond of her husband and cares for her children, but she is not devoted to them. As she told Madame Ratignolle, she will give up everything for her children except for herself (Chopin 80). The 19th century’s society coerced people to obey and adhere to the gender roles. It was thought that women were inferior, excluding their morals and innocence, to men in many ways and were the antithesis of men. The roles of men and women were complete opposites of each other; the men were expected to work away from the household, while the women were expected to work at home to take care of the children and household. Women are expected to be chaste and men to be extremely sexual. The Awakening displays good examples of the roles men and women were forced to fulfill.

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